Beatle Bob (born Robert E. Matonis, 12 January 1953) is a well-known figure in the St. Louis, Missouri music scene. He is known for his arrhythmic dance moves, Beatles-inspired "mop top" hairstyle and tailored 1960s-style suits. He is often seen doing his characteristic dancing at a wide range of concerts including Ani DiFranco, Less Than Jake and Chuck Berry, both in the crowd and onstage with the performers. His constant presence and dancing is welcomed by some concertgoers and an aggravation to others. He has allegedly been to at least one live show every night since Christmas Eve 1996, and seen over 10,000 bands over the last decade.
According to a 2000 article in The Riverfront Times, Beatle Bob's real name is Robert Matonis. Born in St. Louis in 1953, his parents divorced when he was very young, and he grew up between his mother's house on the South Side of St. Louis, his grandparents' house in Baden, and a nearby Catholic boarding school, Mount Providence (now part of the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus). It was at Mount Providence that Matonis acquired the nickname "Beatle Bob". One day during sixth-grade geography class, he was reading a Beatles magazine concealed within an open textbook. When the nun caught him, she snatched the magazine from him and exclaimed, "That will be enough of that, Beatle Bob!" The name stuck. In 1966, while at Mount Providence, Matonis and fellow pupil Ed Zachow established a rock & roll newsletter entitled U.S. - the United Saviours. After discovering The Beatles at a local record store near his mother's house on Michigan Avenue, Southside Music, Matonis and friends created a Beatles museum in one of their basements and charged visitors to get in. As a youth, Matonis was also an autograph hunter.
After Mount Providence, Matonis attended Augustinian Academy in South St. Louis, and then Southwest High School, graduating in 1971. Academic records state that he graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 1983 with a degree in social work, though Matonis himself has cited 1983 as the date of his graduation. According to his employment record, he worked as a loader for the United Parcel Service from 1983 to 1997.
In interviews in 2004 and 2006, Matonis stated that his main job was working as a social worker with troubled youths in St. Louis, as well as freelancing for the monthly St. Louis restaurant review magazine Sauce and other music magazines.
Matonis has always been single. He has been a vegetarian since 1981, and has never smoked, drunk alcohol, or taken drugs. In the 2004 interview he said that he averages four hours sleep a night. He does not drive, and relies on rides from friends or public transport to attend shows. He is 6ft 3in.
Matonis started attending concerts in St. Louis in the late 1970s,, and by the early 1980s had become a recognisable figure on the local concert circuit. According to one local musician, Matonis came to be considered a tastemaker, and his attendance at a concert meant that the band in question was "cool". Among local audiences, "there's a saying that if Beatle Bob is there, you're at the right show". Matonis claims to have been to at least one live show every night since Christmas Eve 1996, and seen over 10,000 bands over the last decade, which he has chronicled in a "dance diary".
Matonis has also regularly attended music festivals around the United States, including Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, City Stages, SXSW, Lollapalooza, the Ponderosa Stomp, International Pop Overthrow in Los Angeles, Sleazefest (which includes a Beatle Bob Dance Contest), the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Austin City Limits Music Festival. He was the emcee at the final Guided by Voices show at Metro in Chicago on December 31, 2004, and introduced Sleater-Kinney at their last touring show during Lollapalooza in 2006. He introduced Camper van Beethoven and The Flaming Lips at Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival in Lawrence, Kansas in June 2006. He also emceed the "Last Call at the Nights" on January 19, 2007, the final show held at Mississippi Nights on Laclede's Landing in St. Louis. On August 3, 2007, Matonis was seen at the Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago, Illinois, dancing onstage with The Polyphonic Spree and introducing a Mississippi band, Colour Revolt. He also introduced the Sam Roberts Band onstage on August 4, 2007 and spent their set dancing offstage. He was seen again on August 5 at Lollapalooza introducing the rock band Dios and dancing with them onstage, and later introducing indie rock band Yo La Tengo. He introduced Cornmeal at Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival in 2011. He was in Columbia, Missouri on September 30, 2016 at The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.
Other music industry activities
As well as contributing to Jet Lag for around ten years, Matonis wrote a monthly "Top Ten" of local concerts for Sauce Magazine. He also used to produce an annual Phil Spector Christmas Special for local community radio station, KDHX, although members of the local music scene have disputed his claims that he hosts a regular radio show or owns a radio station.
Beatle Bob and his dancing are featured in the video for "My Kind of Soldier" by Guided By Voices, and in Lit's DVD "All Access". He is the subject of an upcoming documentary entitled Superfan: The Lies, Life and Legend of Beatle Bob.
Matonis describes his dancing style as a combination of 1960s dances including The Duck, The Twist, The Frug, and The Loco-Motion. According to Matonis, "my signature move is I get my right leg and I twist it behind my left like a bowling move, like you're bowling and then I twirl my right hand to the side like you're rolling dice". Another common move involves a slow-motion tai chi style movement. A profile for local public radio station KWMU described it as "the most awkward, yet intense version of the "white man dance" you've ever seen". Matonis almost always dances alone, and his dancing style does not change according to the genre of music at the concert. Though he started dancing in 1975, Matonis cites the main inspiration for his solo dancing as observing a friend dancing compulsively at a Dwight Twilley concert in 1975.
Matonis has received both positive and negative reception of his dancing and concert attendance. Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo said that "in a business that breeds pretension, it's heartwarming to see someone respond so honestly to the music". Local club owner Bob Putnam described Matonis as "the glue that keeps the St. Louis music scene together", adding that for local bands who are unlikely to find career success, seeing Matonis dancing in front of them can make them feel special.
However, Matonis has also faced criticism from other concert-goers. He has repeatedly been accused of stealing merchandise, and misrepresenting his own connections to the music industry, and musicians have taken issue with the fact that he rarely pays money to see live music, robbing the performing artist of revenues. One strategy involves securing free entry to events by claiming to be associated with local radio station KDHX, for which he has been criticised by staff at the station. He has been banned from several clubs and record stores in the St. Louis area. Matonis himself claims that most of these incidents were a result of misunderstandings.
Some concert-goers also find his frenetic dancing disruptive and selfish; a website was set up by a local music fan, beatlebobsitdown.com, for other audience members to post complaints about Matonis. In their blog, St. Louis indie-rock band So Many Dynamos remarked, "So what's the problem? Well, he always gets into shows free, always shows up late, and always pushes his way past everybody to get to the front right by the stage. This is extra annoying because we always try to make our shows as comfortable as possible for us and for the people that like our band... The other issue is that I have personally seen him steal things from show patrons and from bands. Once, I went to a show, saw him walk to the back of the venue where some kid had set his jacket, drape it over his arm, and walk out."
- Stelzer, C.D. (22 March 2000). "Something in the way he moves". The Riverfront Times. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Castellano, Nicole (27 October 2006). "Beatle Bob: The Man, The Myth, The Dancer". STL Music. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Johnson, Danica (18 August 2004). "Speakeasy with Beatle Bob". Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Allington, Adam (15 November 2008). "The Legend of Beatle Bob". Weekend America. American Public Media. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Ryan (26 December 2007). "So Many Dynamos touring/recording/all-purpose blog: Concerning Beatle Bob". So Many Dynamos touring/recording/all-purpose blog. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Garrison, Chad (9 August 2010). "Contest: Win Tickets to Party with Beatle Bob". The Riverfront Times. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- Guthrie, Claudia (1 October 2016). "Missouri icon Beatle Bob returns to the stage at Roots N Blues". Vox Magazine. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
- "Beatle Bob: Funky man, kingmaker". Salon. March 21, 2005. Retrieved 1 October 2010.[permanent dead link]
- Video on YouTube
- Langer, Andy (14 March 2003). "The Insider: Beatle Bob". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
- "Beatle Bob Sit Down". www.beatlebobsitdown.com. Retrieved 2018-03-07.